French pork producers show off world class facilities

Rica Delfinado - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Global demand for pork has risen tremendously in recent decades due in part to significant changes in consumption patterns in emerging economies like the Philippines.


Supply, however, is not expected to fall behind demand as the global pork industry, together with poultry, is the fastest growing livestock subsector with animal numbers expected to hit one billion by 2015 – double the number in the 1970s, according to a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).   

According to the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI),  sustained  global growth in income and population would lead to an increase in per capita meat consumption, fueling growth in both meat (beef, pork and poultry) production and trade which are seen  hitting 251.8 million tons and 22.8 million tons, respectively by the end of the decade.

According to FAPRI report, the bulk of the increase in pork production is expected to come from China, the European Union, North America and Brazil.

Among member countries of the European Union (EU), France, which is presently the region’s third largest  supplier, plays an important role in the EU pork sector due to its abundant grain supply and efficient production methods.

In 2011, France’s total pork production reached 2.3 million  tons (of carcass equivalent). The figure, however, was down slightly from the 2010 production level of 2.3 million tons.  A significant contributor to total agricultural output, France’s  pig industry employs about 2.3 million people  in 12,000 farms scattered all over the country.

In 2012, French exports of pig meat, offals and deli products reached 750,000 tons with European countries gobbling up roughly 500,000 tons or two thirds of total consumption,  while   China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and other Middle East and African countries accounted for the remaining 250,000 tons.   

However, a spate of tight regulatory rulings from the European Commission which now require big investments for pig producers may have affected France’s latest production statistics. For example, a further reduction in the sow herd was recorded this year  as animal welfare rules in group housing of pregnant sows  becomes obligatory  starting this year.  

Based on a report from the French Statistics Service (Agreste), France’s total pig meat production declined 3.1 percent as of March this year from a year ago level.

Despite a slight drop in industry performance due to rising production cost as a consequence of EU policies on biotech crops, soaring feed prices and animal welfare, industry analysts are optimistic  that the industry, with its strong fundamentals, would bounce back from the temporary setback. 

Industry experts said  most French  pig farms have continously improved the technical aspect of farming from genetics-driven selective breeding to diet and hygiene control to stay competitive and highly productive.

Efficient and modern integrated plants

Late in June this year, a  Filipino delegation led by representatives from the  Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) was invited by the French Interprofessional Pork Council (Inaporc) to a study tour of the French pork industry and its production establishments.

Inaporc, headed by its chairman Guillaume Roue, was created in 2002 to bring together France’s pig industry professionals to strengthen food security and traceability, help develop both the local and the export market and defend and promote the common interests of the  sector.

The study tour covered selected farm sites from Paris to Lamballe, located in the Brittany region northeast of France, before heading southwest  to Pau, a  community near the northern edge of the Pyrenees. 

In Lamballe, the Philippine delegation toured the modern plant of Cooperl Arc Atlantique, France’s biggest integrated pork producer with a total turnover of 2 billion euro in 2012.

The company has a total production of 5.694 million pigs per year, 4,800 employees and  contacts and offices in major countries all over the world. 

Cooperl’s production group  consisting of 2,760 breeders/farmers organized in the northwest of France (Brittany, Normandy and the Loire Valley) accounts for about 25 percent of total French pig production.

The cooperative employs a total of 52 breeding technicians, 16 building technicians and 27 veterinarians working closely together to produce the highest quality pork to meet consumer needs.

The Brittany region where Lamballe is located is the regional capital  for pig breeding in France with approximately 8,000 pig farms accounting for 58 percent of France’s total pig production.

The plant visit at Cooperl was  an eye opener for the Philippine delegation on how a modern industrial slaughterhouse  and meat processing plant work to achieve optimum meat freshness, hygiene and international quality assurance for its products.

Cooperl has three modern industrial slaughterhouses and four meat processing plant equipped with the latest technologies.

Live pigs  upon their arrival at the plant were  inspected, cleaned and sorted before they were sent to the slaughterhouse facility. At the slaughterhouse,  electric stunning is utilized to painlessly render the pig unconscious.  Weighing identification is then conducted before the carcasses are thoroughly inspected by  veterinarians.

The cutting and processing lines are a showcase of attention to hygience, total traceability and preservation of meat freshness, ensuring meat quality and safety.

Through an efficient logistic network and total mastery of the cold chain, Cooperl can easily deliver both refrigerated and frozen pork meat to its worldwide network of retailers and consumers including the Philippines.

All Cooperl  plants conform to  HACCP quality standards. The meat factories are certified BRC (British Retail Consortium) level A and ISO 9001 for their entire production activities. With these two standards, the company  has reached the maximum level of guaranteed security for consumers.

According to Cooperl, it has implemented a large number of industrial processes to guarantee the security and high standard of food safety. This include  full farm traceability up to the final product processing stage;  health inspection carried out at different stages of the production chain (farms, processing/slaughtering plants, transportation); and plant  inspections conducted  in different areas (slaughtering process, hygiene, cold chain and product microbiology).

From the Brittany region, the Philippine delegation travelled southwest of France to visit Fipso, also a fully integrated pork producer specializing in pig breeding and pork meat processing.

With 400 pig farmers as members of the cooperative, Fipso  controls 50 percent of the region’s  total pig production and is  France’s 10th biggest integrated pork producer.  The company, with  total turnover of 150 million euro in 2012, has 300 employees.

Fipso slaughters and processes 650,000 pigs  and produces  56,000 tons of pork meat each year.

Just like its bigger counterpart Cooperl, Fipso’s fully integrated plant boasts of   modern equipment and offers the highest quality standard of pork meat (fresh and frozen) to its consumers in France, neighboring European countries and Asia including the Philippines.

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